food and health

Fasting for nerds

A company which produces cognitive-enhancing products has started a new trend, now rampant in Silicon Valley: the day of complete fasting, in which employees of Californian tech companies avoid food for the betterment of their health and for longer life spans.

The brains of Silicon Valley fast to be more productive and live longer. Many programmers, engineers and new media experts living in the planet’s tech hub, California, decided to create the WeFast movement. The goal? To practice intermittent fasting (IF), a way to approach food whose health benefits are already proven.
Among the first to opt to abstain from eating were the employees at Nootrobox, a company which develops supplements and drugs to enhance cognitive performance. “When fasting, my mind is clearer and I’m more creative” stated Paul Benigeri, a Nootrobox employee, to Business Insider, an economics magazine.
To make the habit of skipping meals for one or two days a week more practical, WeFast participants meet every Wednesday to break their fast together. For a few of them, this means a 14 hour break, for others even longer periods up to 36 hours (the fasting model promoted by WeFast). Each company puts their own spin on things: there’s one that’s closed the cafeteria one day a week (usually Tuesday), another that offers only liquids and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. All the companies which adhere to the programme long term have committed to providing their willing employees with medical and nutritional assistance, as fasting is only good for you if practiced according to strict rules and under the watchful eye of a medical professional. And if for some it’s nothing more than the umpteenth marketing gimmick (especially for companies looking to produce - and sell - substances to improve mental performance), for others, like Valter Longo, it’s an intelligent educational strategy which aims to make fasting a fashionable yet effective practice, thus having a positive impact on health.

Longevity studies
It’s not by chance that the pro-fasting movement began in California, given that the University of Southern California is home to the Longevity Institute, whose mission is to generate scientific, systematic methods to prolong the average lifespan. For the moment, fasting seems to be one of the most efficient ways to reduce chronic diseases frequently seen in developed nations and to extend life expectancy while simultaneously upholding quality of life.
We already know we consume more calories than we need. An unwelcome gift from evolution, our bodies still haven’t done away with the accumulation mechanisms which pushed our ancestors to take advantage of the moments in which food was abundant to better survive times of famine. But today, at least for the more fortunate parts of the planet, famines are an eradicated nightmare and those very same mechanisms now push us to overeat.
BCFN, which aims to promote sustainable food practices, also reiterated this idea, choosing the slogan “Eat Better, Eat Less” for the International Forum on Food and Nutrition which was held in Milan in December 2016. And eating less doesn’t just mean curtailed waste and a better distribution of resources. It also means training the body to be satisfied with a reduced number of calories so that we may “gain” more in terms of health.


food and health

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